October waxed and waned in the blink of an eye. The days sped past in a blur of lessons, revisions, and abysmal Quidditch practices that Harry would rather have forgotten. The first Quidditch match against Slytherin was only a little over a week away and Harry had never felt less prepared for a game in his life. In addition, he was doing so poorly in Potions that he and Justin had started spending their spare time with Gwyn and Padma, doing extra revision; Hermione had so far refused to work with them on the grounds that Snape might think she was cheating again. Despite the extra time he was putting in, Harry lived in constant fear that his next lesson with Snape might be his last, ending all hope for a career as an Auror.
But today, all of that was forgotten. It was Halloween, and all of the students had been given the day off from lessons in order for the older years to have their trip to Hogsmeade. Hermione had been scandalized that they would cancel lessons for such a thing, instead of just sending them to Hogsmeade on a weekend, but Harry and Ron had quickly convinced her to stop her griping and just be grateful that the Hogsmeade trip wouldn't cut into her regularly scheduled weekend revision time; this seemed to mollify her slightly.
Harry waited nervously in the entrance hall by the huge doors which had been thrown wide to let in the unseasonably warm October breeze. Filch was standing at the foot of the stairs, list in hand, ready to turn away any students who had not had their permission slips signed. Harry dug into his pocket and produced the small square mirror Remus had given him. He'd taken to carrying it with him in the off chance that Remus would try to contact him, but he hadn't actually spoken to him since his tirade weeks before. Glancing at his reflection, he self-consciously ruffled his messy hair as he stared in the direction he knew the Ravenclaw dormitories to lie. Someone giggled at him.
Harry quickly shoved the mirror back into his pocket and turned to find Ginny giving him a rather indulgent look as she munched on a piece of toast.
"You just make it worse when you rumple it up like that," she said with a smirk.
Harry reddened slightly, but put on a confident smile. "I dunno," he said, "I think it makes me look kind of cool... Like I just came in off my broom or something."
Ginny snorted in a very unladylike way. "Er... All right then..." she said sarcastically.
Harry chanced another glance towards the Ravenclaw wing. "So, are you going to Hogsmeade with Dean?" he asked casually.
Ginny shook her head. "I broke it off with him." Her eyes widened seriously. "But don't tell Ron, OK? He'll just blow up and make a scene."
"I don't think so," Harry said truthfully. "He'll probably be glad to see you well chuffed of him."
Ginny looked somewhat guilty. "Not when he hears why I'm chuffed of him," she said quietly. Harry looked at her curiously and she continued. "I caught Dean and Lavender snogging in the common room two nights ago," she said with a dramatically disgusted roll of her eyes.
Harry made a sympathetic noise.
"Oh, I'm OK with it," she quickly assured him. "Dean and I were pretty much just friends at this point anyway -- but I don't know how Ron will react. I swear, he's worse than Fred and George when it comes to worrying about my love life!"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Since when have Fred and George cared a bit about your love life?"
Ginny giggled unexpectedly.
"Since they finally figured out what to do with girls, I think--" she said with a laugh, "--I mean, other than play pranks on them or knock Bludgers at them. And now they've figured out what girls are for, they don't want anyone else thinking that way about me!"
Harry had to laugh at the thought of two identically scandalized faces.
"What can I say?" Ginny continued. "I guess Weasley men are just late bloomers. Speaking of which..." She made an emphatic gesture with her head to the doors of the Great Hall, and Harry saw Ron and Hermione coming towards him.
"Not a word!" Ginny hissed as she turned to go.
"Oy!" Ron called to Harry in a teasing voice. "Where's your date?" Harry gave him a dirty look.
"She'll be along. Where's yours?" Ron looked taken aback by this, and Hermione rolled her eyes at them, trying to conceal a grin. Just then, a knot of Ravenclaw girls made their way into the entrance hall. Harry noticed Luna, Mandy Brocklehurst, and Padma, who waved genially, before he spotted Gwyn chatting animatedly with Cho Chang. His stomach lurched rather unpleasantly.
"Since when have those two been so friendly?" he muttered. Hermione sighed.
"Stop being paranoid," she whispered. As they approached, Cho said goodbye to Gwyn and moved with the rest of her friends towards the door. As she passed, she caught Harry's eye, and for a moment it looked like she wanted to say something, but then she simply tossed her hair and moved on.
"Hi Ron," Luna called loudly, waving. Ron blushed slightly and gave a half-hearted sort of wave before he noticed Gwyn and his jaw fell open.
"What are you done up for, then?" Ron asked in apparent disbelief as Gwyn came to stand with them. She was wearing blue jeans and a long flowing sort of tunic that was the color of rust red earth and looked to have been draped together rather than actually sewn by any pattern. Her hair was done up on her head in a sort of attractively haphazard pile with little wisps and curls of pink and blonde spilling down all around her face, and she had painted intricate shades of rusty brown colors and glitter around her eyes, down the sides of her neck and shoulders, and even on the backs of her hands. Two funny little bobble ended antennae sprouted out of her wild hairdo as well, but the most impressive part of her outfit was the wings.
"It's my costume," she replied with a grin. "I'm a Sonoran Desert Pixie." Ron goggled at her. She sighed, and the large iridescent dragonfly wings sprouting seamlessly from the skin between her shoulder blades gave a little flutter. "You act like you've never seen a pixie before," she chided Ron. "Don't you have them over here?"
"I've just never seen one quite so... big," he retorted.
Gwyn giggled. "Everyone at the Conservatory dresses up for Halloween," she explained, "even the professors. We have a big party and a costume contest with prizes for the best ones. I got honorable mention two years ago for my mad butcher costume. I stuck a fake hand in the pocket of my butcher coat and a friend of mine charmed it to wave at people." Ron continued to stare at her like she was speaking another language. "It's a lot of fun," she insisted with a wise nod.
"I got these by mail order ages ago," she continued, indicating the wings, "and I wasn't about to let them just sit in my trunk for another whole year." Ron stared at her with unabashed incredulity.
Hermione seemed to be trying very hard not to look as dumbfounded as Ron. "Why a pixie?" she asked, attempting a smile.
"I thought that would be obvious," Gwyn replied with a wicked grin, "what with my decidedly pixotic disposition."
"I like it," Harry said, feeling stupid as soon as the words left his mouth. Ron smirked, but Gwyn smiled brightly at him.
"Thank you, Harry," she said, and Harry felt heat rising to his face.
"Er, ready to go then?" he asked quickly. Gwyn nodded. The four of them headed down the steps towards the town, and, as they walked, Hermione kept slowing down and making Ron walk with her so that Harry and Gwyn could get well ahead.
They passed through the gates to the Hogworts grounds and Harry began to feel a little nervous. He wouldn't admit even to himself how many times he'd pictured this exact moment over the last few weeks -- though admittedly, without the pixie wings. So far, everything was going fine, but he was afraid that as soon as he opened his mouth he would somehow ruin it as he'd inadvertently done with Cho.
"So!" Gwyn said cheerfully, smiling at all the students openly gawking at her costume. "Where are you taking me?"
"Anywhere you want to go," Harry replied, relieved that he didn't have to open the conversation.
Gwyn grinned. "I want to go everywhere."
They started at Honeydukes which was fit to burst with Hogworts students. Gwyn bought quite a large quantity of Chocolate Frogs claiming that she needed to catch up on her card collecting, and Harry stocked up on Honeydukes' chocolate bars, as more Dementors had been spotted recently and he wanted to be prepared in the unlikely event that they decided to visit Hogworts.
Next they went to Zonkos, which, Harry explained, was brilliant, but not nearly as good as Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes in Diagon Alley. Then they visited the post office to look at all the owls, and Gwyn promptly went up to the Post Wizard and asked how much it would cost to send a coconut by swallow from Africa to England. She thought this was terribly funny, and the Post Wizard asked them to leave.
A dark bank of clouds was gathering on the horizon as they scurried out of the post office and a chilly wind had begun to blow. Harry was beginning to think that dating wasn't as difficult as everyone made it seem. From the moment he had admitted that he had asked Gwyn to Hogsmeade, Ron had taken every possible opportunity to wind him up about it. Girls were, Ron assured him, completely mental, and dating was very dangerous to a bloke's health and sanity. Yet Harry found that he was having such a good time with Gwyn that he could hardly remember why he had been so nervous about it all in the first place.
Gwyn stopped for a moment and turned away from him to look into a store window. Harry stared at the nape of her neck where tiny little ringlets of blonde hair were curling against the bare skin of her tan brown shoulders, and his insides began to feel like molten lead. She turned around to smile at him. Oh right... Harry thought as he blushed furiously.
"Let's go see the Shrieking Shack," Gwyn suggested eagerly as they walked up the high street towards the other end of town. Harry grinned to himself and agreed. They made their way to a hill just outside of the town where one had an unobstructed view of the rickety wooden house set off all by itself in a brown field. Gwyn shivered as she stared at it.
"Is it true that it's the most severely haunted structure in Britain?" she asked, inching a little closer to Harry and out of the wind.
Harry shook his head, thinking of Remus and the rest of the Marauders. "You sound like you've been talking to Hermione," he suggested.
"Oh no," Gwyn said with a little laugh. "No, Cho told me about it. She's been telling me about lots of stuff, actually."
Harry's voice caught in his throat. "Really?" he managed to squeak, hoping he sounded more interested than afraid of what Cho might have to say to Gwyn.
"Mmm hmm..." Gwyn replied, leaning even a little closer to Harry so that her shoulder was touching his as they stared at the shack. "She's got a lot of very interesting things to say." He could feel a slight breeze every time her pixie wings gave a little flutter, and he felt the color rising in his cheeks. He wondered if it was due to Gwyn's proximity or her teasing him with what Cho had said.
"So how come you never mentioned that you two were an item?" Gwyn asked casually. Harry tried to think but found that his mind had gone rather inconveniently blank.
"Er..." he managed feebly.
"Only, she told me that you weren't very nice to her," Gwyn continued nonchalantly, still watching the Shrieking Shack intently, as though she expected one of its much vaunted ghosts to appear at any moment. "She said you asked her out to Hogsmeade and then mentioned half way through that you had a date with Hermione after."
"That's not what--"
"And that's when I laughed right in her face and told her she was crazy. I mean really, the thought of you and Hermione..." Gwyn turned her head to smile up at him and he could see the barely contained laughter in her eyes. He smiled gratefully. "Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that the two of you are best friends," she continued, "and Hermione's much too intelligent to mess that up by letting you having a crush on her." Harry's smile faltered a bit in his confusion while Gwyn laughed and grabbed his hand.
"I'm just messing with you, Harry," she assured him. She grinned and Harry grinned back, laughter finally bursting out of his throat. They stood quietly staring at the shack and holding hands for a few minutes more before Harry felt Gwyn shiver against his arm.
"Cold?" he asked. Her blouse seemed to be made of very thin material, and it left her shoulders necessarily bare to make room for the wings. As pretty as it was, Harry thought, it wasn't terribly practical.
"A bit," she admitted, hugging his arm close to herself without letting go of his hand.
"Then let's go and get something warm to drink," Harry suggested. Gwyn nodded.
"Only if you promise not to take me to that place Cho told me about -- Madam Pudding-Foot's or something? Sounded gawd awful to me..."
"It is," Harry agreed, grinning. "We'll go to the Three Broomsticks instead." They began walking back towards town hand in hand. Harry realized that he was beaming idiotically, but he couldn't quite find the conviction to care. So what if people saw him grinning like a jack-o-lantern? That just meant that they would also see the amazing girl -- er, pixie -- currently walking through town with him. Harry's smile broadened even a bit more; he couldn't quite believe how brilliant it was just to be holding her hand.
As they made their way up the high street towards the Three Broomsticks, Harry noticed that the bank of dark clouds had rolled in rapidly and now blocked out almost all of the remaining afternoon sunshine. It was no wonder Gwyn was cold. He was beginning to feel rather bold, and wondered if he dared put his arm around her shoulders like he had that time she'd had the Freezing Draught in potions.
He was just pondering how to accomplish this with the pixie wings in the way, when a hint of movement in a dark alley they were passing caught his eye. He paused slightly in his gait, and Gwyn turned to look up at him just as a voice shouted, "Stupefy!"
Harry watched in horror as Gwyn crumpled forward into his arms.
It took a split second for Harry to realize what was happening, and in that second, panic shot through him, paralyzing him as though he'd been struck by lightening.
The Honeydukes' bags tumbled to the ground. Harry struggled to reach for his wand and support Gwyn at the same time. "Expelliarmus!" the voice cried just as Harry's fingers closed around his wand. It flew from his grasp. Harry's stomach turned as he heard it clatter to the cobblestones behind him.
A man emerged from the dark alley. He had close cropped brown hair and was wearing a dirty brown muffler over most of his face; only his eyes were visible above it, staring at Harry intently. He crossed the distance between them in a few long strides.
A single thought flooded Harry's mind: get your wand! Hitching his arm under Gwyn's, Harry turned, dragging her with him, and scanned the ground frantically.
The man was upon them in seconds. He grabbed Gwyn roughly out of Harry's grasp and threw her to the ground. Harry swung his fist at the attacker and caught him in the gut. Unfortunately, the much bigger man barely flinched before slamming Harry's jaw in return. Harry's head snapped back and his world exploded in a supernova of white hot pain. He tumbled to the ground.
He needed his wand if he was to have any chance. Closing his eyes in concentration, supplication, desperation, something, he threw his arm out behind him and shouted "Accio wand!"
Miraculously, he felt its smooth wood fly into his hand, but the stranger was already there, kicking it away from him again and then kicking him hard in the ribs. Harry heard something crack. He doubled over and gasped for breath as the man hauled him roughly to his feet. Harry struggled, but he was dizzy from the punch and busy choking on his own tongue, still unable to get any oxygen to his brain.
"Harry?" someone shouted.
Harry blinked, trying to focus his eyes, and twisted to look over his shoulder.
A hand yanked on the front of his jumper while the other slapped him hard across the face.
"Expelliarmus!" Neville's voice shouted. The spell was so powerful that it knocked Harry and his attacker apart. The man's wand clattered into the darkness of the alley. Harry hit the ground again painfully and something flew out of his pocket. He stared blearily at the little square mirror where it skidded to rest a few feet away.
"Remus," Harry breathed, then much louder, "Remus!"
"Stupefy! Stupefy!" Neville screamed.
Harry tried to push himself up off the pavement. A pair of hands grabbed him roughly and dragged him to his feet, catching him in a powerful vice-grip. The world spun wildly as he was forced upright, and he thought for a moment that he might be sick.
Harry strained against the arms, flailing and scratching, but his strength was sapped by pain. A confusion of voices met his ears as he was dragged towards the alley.
"Hogsmead! Hurry! ...s'got Harry!"
Harry started shouting, hoping that he could lead someone to him, but the words garbled into wordless anguish before they left his throat. A hand clamped roughly over Harry's mouth and he did the first and only thing he could think of: he bit it. The man bellowed loudly and smacked him hard upside the head again. Harry's glasses clattered to the ground and he slumped forward, sagging with defeat, still caught in the vice.
Suddenly there was a loud crack, and Harry wondered feebly if he'd broken another bone. A stronger, louder voice cried, "Stupefy!"
Harry grunted in pain as the hands released him and he hit the ground again. He decided blearily that the ground wasn't a bad place to be once he got there. At least it wasn't moving.
Disjointed noises met his ears. Someone scrabbling on the cobblestones, someone shouting, running feet, a crack. He had trouble assimilating them into anything coherent, clinging to consciousness by the barest of threads.
Struggling into a semi-upright position, Harry found he was staring at Gwyn where she was still lying in the street. One of her wings was bent at an odd angle beneath her, and the other was twitching feebly. Desperately, Harry tried to crawl towards her. He only managed to drag himself a few feet before things went blissfully black.
The world came rushing back like water through a funnel. Neville was talking to him, trying to ask him something, handing him his glasses and his wand. Harry allowed Neville to help him into a sitting position and immediately regretted it as his head throbbed painfully. The world began to steady, though, and up began to distinguish itself from down.
"What happened?" he managed groggily. Neville started to answer, but was cut off by a concerned shout.
"Harry!" Harry looked around and saw Remus running towards them, robes flapping behind him, wand drawn and at the ready.
"What are you doing here?" Harry asked, staring at him dumbly.
"Are you hurt?" Remus asked at the same time.
"That guy punched him!" Neville exclaimed excitedly, his round face red and his eyes wide. "He kicked him in the ribs too!"
"Are you OK?" Remus asked Neville. Neville nodded quickly.
Remus squatted down to Harry's eye level. "Can you walk?" he asked. Harry nodded, and immediately wished that he hadn't. Remus and Neville took him under each arm and helped him to his feet.
"Gwyn!" Harry choked suddenly, remembering.
"She's out cold," Neville said, "but she's breathing and everything."
"She'll be fine," Remus assured them as they walked over to where she was still lying in the street. "But we have to get you back to Hogwarts right now." Remus reached into his pocket and pulled out a battered, bent quill. He held his wand over it and muttered, "Portus."
"Can you stand on your own?" Harry nodded uncertainly, and Remus and Neville let go of him. He wobbled slightly, but managed to remain upright. The throbbing had spread from his head down to his abdomen where he'd been kicked. Even breathing hurt.
Remus stooped and scooped Gwyn up from the cobblestones as though she were no more than a rag doll.
"You're going to have to carry her," he said urgently to Neville, "but just for a moment. I'll send you straight to Madam Pomfrey." Harry frowned and thought vaguely that he ought to be the one carrying Gwyn as Neville flushed crimson, holding out his arms to accept her inert frame from Remus.
Remus held out the quill. "I'll be right behind you," he said quietly. Harry and Neville grasped the quill at the same time, and Harry felt the peculiar tugging behind his navel that he associated with traveling by portkey. The world blurred sickeningly and, just as quickly, refocused inside the Hogworts hospital wing.
Madam Pomfrey let out a little shriek as they materialized; Harry wobbled and almost collapsed. She must have helped him to a bed, but all he could really remember was telling her to look after Gwyn first.
"Be still and it won't hurt so much!"
When Harry woke, the first thing he saw was a rather blurry Madam Pomfrey bending over him, prodding him painfully in the side with her wand. A glob of thick greenish light emerged from her wand and entered his skin.
"Wassat?" Harry asked, still feeling a little groggy.
"You've a broken rib," she said sharply. "Looks like you've broken it before, too. But you'll live." Harry groaned. At the moment, he didn't feel as though he wanted to live. At the moment, he felt as though he'd been run over by a rampaging hippogriff.
Memories began to stir inside his foggy brain. "Gwyn!" he gasped suddenly, trying to sit up. Madam Pomfrey tutted reassuringly, but pushed him firmly back down onto the pillows.
"There, there, Mr. Potter! She's fine. It was quite a stun she suffered, but she's sleeping it off. She'll be right as rain in no time." At that moment, the curtains by his bed shifted, and Remus came around them, his face drawn and concerned.
"How is he, Poppy?" he asked, moving to Harry's bedside. Madam Pomfrey made a small harrumphing noise.
"As good as can be expected. Honestly, Remus, he's in here almost as much as you were at his age." She patted Remus on the shoulder as she left the two of them alone. Remus sank down onto the side of Harry's bed, head in his hand.
"All right, Harry?" he asked tentatively, looking up.
"All right," Harry replied. "How did you find me?"
Remus smiled wearily. "Neville told me where you were. It's a lucky thing he was there, or no one would even have known you were gone until they found Gwyn."
Harry nodded. He was beginning to remember details of what had happened, but everything was still slightly out of focus. "He saved my life," he said softly. "His disarming charm was so strong it threw me and the other guy half way across the street! It slowed him down. That's the only reason I was still there when you got there."
"Seems we taught him well," Remus said mildly.
"Did you catch the guy?" Harry suddenly demanded, groping for his glasses on the bedside table and shoving them onto his face. Remus frowned and shook his head.
"I'm sure I hit him at least once, but he just shrugged it off. He found his wand and disapparated before I could do anything about it."
Harry frowned, trying to remember. "Who was he?"
"I was rather hoping you could tell me," Remus replied. "I never got a good look at his face."
"Neither did I," Harry said sullenly.
"But it's the same tactic the other man used in Diagon Alley; he attacked the person you were with first, before going after you."
"It doesn't make any sense," Harry frowned. "I mean, why go to all that trouble? He could have killed me right then if that's what he'd wanted, same as the other guy; they both caught us completely by surprise. Why didn't he just kill me?"
Remus gave him a hard look. "I don't know, Harry," he said finally.
At that moment, Madam Pomfrey bustled back over with a bottle of potion in each hand and what looked like a large pewter hand mirror. She set the bottles on the table and proceeded to hold the mirror out over Harry's bare chest.
Only it wasn't a mirror. Harry strained to watch, fascinated, as the mirror seemed to show layers of skin and muscle being pulled back to reveal what was underneath. Finally, when the mirror showed the white bands of Harry's ribs, Madam Pomfrey said "Stop."
"Well," she concluded after a moment, "that looks all right then. I've healed the break, Mr. Potter, but I'm afraid you'll be sore." She moved the mirror away, and its surface once again reflected the room rather than Harry's insides. "You're going to be quite colorful too; that fellow gave you some nasty knocks." She held the mirror up, and Harry was slightly shocked to see a massive purple bruise blooming spectacularly across one side of his face.
"I'm going to give you something for the pain now," Madam Pomfrey continued, pouring out a measure of one potion, "and I'll give you a sleeping draught to take later on." Harry obediently swallowed the potion given to him, and felt the tightness in his chest ease almost immediately. He sighed slightly with relief.
Remus smiled. "Good stuff, that," he said wryly. Madam Pomfrey scoffed and moved away.
"What about Gwyn?" Harry called after her.
Madam Pomfrey gave him a searching look. "She's not awake yet, but you may wait with her, if you like."
Harry nodded gratefully.
Remus stared at him for a long moment. "You're something else, Harry," he said at last.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Well," he said cynically, "if you're talking about me getting my arse kicked up one side and down the other..."
"No," Remus replied, smiling, "although you did quite a good job of that too."
"You're always worrying about other people before yourself." Remus shook his head. "That's your mum in you, I expect. She was always worrying more about us than about herself..."
Harry could feel that Remus wanted to say more, but the man held his tongue. Instead, he stood abruptly and patted Harry awkwardly on the shoulder.
"I'd best go tell Dumbledore that you're still alive," he said, turning to leave.
"Remus!" Harry stopped him. Remus gave him an odd look, and Harry flushed, suddenly embarrassed.
"I was thinking, since you're already here and everything, you might want to have dinner with me. If Dumbledore says it's OK, of course... We could lift some food from the kitchen and camp out in a classroom somewhere." He paused. "But if you'd rather not..."
Remus searched his face for a moment. "But it's the Halloween feast tonight, Harry."
"Oh. I forgot about the feast," Harry replied gloomily.
Remus shrugged. "You should go," he said firmly. "I seem to recall that Hogworts put on a pretty good spread for Halloween. You don't want to miss that."
"Well," Harry said slowly, "why don't you come with me? You could sit at Gryffindor table with us." Remus' eyes brightened slightly. "I'm sure Ron and Hermione would like to see you too," he added.
Remus smiled at last. "I'll ask Dumbledore," he said.
When he was gone, Harry gingerly swung his feet over to the side of the bed and tested his weight. He didn't feel nearly so dizzy as he had when he'd first arrived, and when he stood, he decided that the pain potion was indeed pretty good stuff, as he only felt a few dull aches and pains.
He found his jumper, tee shirt, and trainers waiting for him neatly in a chair at the end of the bed, with his amulet and wand lying neatly on top. He stuffed the amulet and his wand into the pockets of his jeans and reached for his tee shirt at once, meaning to dress, when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. In a bed across the infirmary, Gwyn was beginning to stir.
She groaned quietly and Harry hurried over to her bedside. She was terribly pale. Someone had removed her pixie wings and her elaborate hairstyle was in disarray. She was looking around fitfully when he approached.
"Harry?" she said, sounding timid and unsure.
"It's me," he said quickly, dropping to his knees by her bed and grabbing her hand. "Are you OK?"
"What happened?" she asked fearfully. "Where are we?"
"It's OK," he assured her soothingly. "We're in the hospital wing at Hogwarts." He paused, wondering if he really ought to tell her what happened or not, but decided there was nothing for it. "We were attacked. In Hogsmeade."
Gwyn frowned at him. "Attacked?" she repeated. She tried to sit up and groaned, putting her hands to her head.
"I'll get Madam Pomfrey," Harry said quickly, rising to his feet and turning to locate the nurse.
"No," Gwyn said, lying back. "No, I'm all right. I just sat up too quickly." She looked up at him. "Please don't go." She offered him her hand again, and he took it, sinking back to his knees.
"Harry," she said slowly. "Where on earth did you get that scar on your back?"
Harry began to blush as he realized that he still hadn't put his shirt on. Then he frowned and tried for a moment, rather comically, to see over his own shoulder in an attempt to appear indifferent to the fact that he was half naked.
"Oh that," he said in a strained voice, as he tried to see the thin jagged scar that grazed his shoulder blade. "That's where the dragon got me in the Tri-Wizard tournament fourth year. I summoned my broom to get past her and as I was feigning left, she swung right and..." he trailed off as Gwyn started to laugh. "What's so funny?"
"Are you kidding?" she asked, grinning. He gave her a rather confused look and her smile faded slightly. "You're not, are you? I swear Harry, you should take up poker. I can never tell if you're telling me the truth or just pulling my leg. A dragon got you?" Harry nodded solemnly and Gwyn shook her head in disbelief.
"What about that one?" she asked, pointing to his right arm where it lay on the blankets next to her. A round shiny pink scar, roughly the size of a galleon was faintly visible just above the elbow.
"That's where the Basilisk bit me," Harry replied. "That was back in second year. It was going around petrifying people and then Ginny..." He trailed off again at her incredulous expression. "I swear," he said seriously. "I'm not making this up."
"Well if a Basilisk bit you, why aren't you dead?" Gwyn asked pointedly.
Harry shrugged. "Fawkes healed me," he replied. "That's Dumbledore's Phoenix. Their tears have healing powers, you know."
"All right, then what about that one?" she asked, pointing just below the Basilisk scar where an angry brown line sliced the blue veins just visible through his pale skin. "Wait," she said, "don't tell me. That one is from a Harpy you tried to teach to tango."
Harry shook his head solemnly.
"No," he said simply. "Nothing so exciting as that."
Gwyn watched him, her expression changing from sarcastic amusement, to curiosity, to concern.
"What then?" she asked.
Harry reached up and ran his thumb over the slightly raised skin of the scar thoughtfully.
"That's where Peter Pettigrew, the man who betrayed my parents, stole my blood to resurrect Voldemort," he said quietly, his voice devoid of emotion.
Gwyn's eyes widened, but as she opened her mouth to speak, the door to the infirmary banged open loudly.
They both turned to look at the man who had just entered the room. He was blonde, tan, and Hollywood handsome, and he was dressed in a suave set of pinstripe black dress robes that hung open over a matching pinstripe business suit, a royal blue shirt, and a solid black tie.
"Daddy?" Gwyn exclaimed, her voice thick with disbelief. Harry was suddenly gripped by a very strong urge to run and hide, and definitely to put a shirt on.
This chapter has been in the works for a LONG time, so I hope you'll give me LOTS AND LOTS of feedback, because I'm DYING to know if you like it as much as I do. A quick note to any potential canon nazis: yes, I realize that the "scar scene" is walking a very fine line between canon and not-so-canon, but I really really liked it, so I kept it. Call it artistic license. :)
BIG HUMONGOUS thanks to my betas, Kris, Justin, and Lucy, without whom this chapter would be a lot rubishier. (As evidenced by that word I just made up. Ha!)
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